A younger member of the EU, Bulgaria is home to a rich and diverse culture, pleasant climate, and an attractive location in southeastern Europe. There are an estimated 58,000 foreigners living in Bulgaria today. There are numerous expat communities, and that number is only growing. Low property prices and a relaxed lifestyle are attracting people from all over the world.
Clearly, for EU citizens, the process of gaining residency is going to much easier and requires less paperwork. Here, I’ve presented the options and requirements as a non-EU citizen to achieve residency abroad in Bulgaria. Most people who achieve residency or citizenship do so through investment. Bulgaria has many opportunities to do so, whether it’s through buying property or investing in a company.
Before gaining residency, you will need to apply for a long stay D-visa (a C-visa is for a short stay). For this, you will need to prove income, accommodations, medical insurance, and other documents, such as your passport. With this visa, you are permitted to leave and re-enter the country within the validity terms.
There are two different types of D-visa. One of the types allows for a stay of 180 days for those who wish to settle long-term in the country, allowing time to obtain residency. The second is for a stay of up to 360 days, issued to foreign students or those conducting research.
Those granted extended residence have all the rights and obligations of a Bulgarian citizen. The permit is valid for one year and can be renewed. The permit holder may change his or her place of residence and leave and re-enter the country. Those who apply for extended residence usually fall into one of the following categories:
- Members of the management or supervisory bodies of a Bulgarian company, provided that such company has employed at least 10 Bulgarian nationals
- Trade representatives of a foreign company registered with the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
- Those issued a work permit by the Bulgarian Employment Agency
Long-Term Residence Permit
Long-term residence permits are issued for one year for non-EU citizens and can be renewed. As a non-EU citizen looking to obtain long-term residence, you must submit your application in your home country to the Bulgarian consular representative. You may be granted long-term residence for the following reasons:
- Work (must obtain a work permit)
- Commercial activities
- Foreigner married to a Bulgarian citizen
- Company representatives of a foreign commercial company registered with the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry
- Investors who carry out activities under the Foreign Investment Act
- Pensioners who receive a pension with sufficient funds to cover their living costs in Bulgaria
- Medical treatment
- Students in full-time education in licensed establishments
- Citizens of Bulgarian descendents
When you apply for the permit, you will need to prove you have sufficient means to support yourself, a place to stay, and a valid passport.
Permanent Residence Permit
After five consecutive years of long-term residence, you can apply for permanent residence abroad in Bulgaria. This earns you the same rights as a Bulgarian citizen, other than the right to vote. You will submit your application to the National Migration Directorate in Bulgaria no later than 60 days before your long-term residency permit expires.
The most popular, and probably the easiest, way foreigners achieve residency in Bulgaria is through investment.
One investment type is called full investment. This requires applicants to deposit BGN 1 million ($609,236 USD) in a Government Bond Portfolio for an investment period of five years. There is no further payment required. After five years, the full amount is returned to the investor.
This option allows you to finance the required investment amount through a European bank. The investor pays a reduced price of BGN 380,970 ($231,786), used to finance a BGN 1 million loan. The investment is not returned at the end of the five year period in this option.
As a Bulgarian citizen you will have unrestricted rights to live, work, and study in Europe. You will also have the right to own land in any European Union country.
As stated in the Bulgarian Citizenship act, foreigners who hold permanent residence of five years are eligible to apply for citizenship. Applicants must be:
- 18 years or older
- A permanent resident with a valid residential address for the past five years, and
- Innocent in Bulgarian court of a capital offense or never accused in criminal proceedings for such a crime.
If you want to speed up the citizenship process, you have the option to double your investment. This option allows you citizenship after one year of permanent residency. To qualify, you must double your investment by purchasing roughly BGN 1 million in government bonds or in capital of a Bulgarian company that is carrying out a Priority Investment Project and hold a second additional investment for a period of two years.